Opportunities out of Chaos: Survival Strategies in the Information Age

Article excerpt

Several trends in the corporate environment are having a significant impact on the way information and records managers view their responsibilities. These trends include mergers, acquisitions, business process re-engineering, downsizing, outsourcing, broad-banding of salaries, and related phenomena. These are strategies which managers are using to lead their organizations more efficiently and effectively. Even more important to information professionals is the widespread availability and use of powerful information processing technologies in the form of personal computers (PCs), software, networks, and related developments which are changing the nature of work in unprecedented ways. Many of these managerial and technological changes threaten traditional records management activities since they are changing the ways in which organizations do business and, consequently, the way that records are produced, maintained, and destroyed.(1)

It is increasingly clear, for example, that in the future those who use information will also have to manage it. As a result, previous distinctions between information users and information or records managers - as personified in traditional file rooms, records centers, and most data processing operations - will become less useful and may in fact prove dysfunctional. In this PC generation, information systems which in the past were difficult, or at best inconvenient, to use are becoming more user-transparent. The users of information will themselves be creating, storing, retrieving, revising, disseminating, and disposing of information at their individual computer-based workstations, often without being consciously aware of it. In essence, all employees will be managing information as well as using it.

STRATEGIC PERSPECTIVES FOR RECORDS MANAGERS

Does this mean, then, that records will not have to be managed? Of course not; but changes in corporate structure created by information technology innovations, as well as business environment instabilities, make the future of many traditional records management positions difficult to predict. Today's records managers, if they intend to be successful, must help plan and implement the transition to this emerging perspective in which users of information also manage it. Their insights into the nature of their organizations and the roles that information plays in making them successful will put records managers in a position to redirect their organizations toward those enhanced information strategies, policies, and procedures which will make their organizations more effective and competitive. If, on the other hand, their current organizations remain unconvinced regarding the value of managing information, experienced records managers have the ability to apply their expertise and skills in other venues.

Records managers may consider two strategic directions in responding to the managerial and technological changes occurring in their organizations. One is internal; that is, how can they use their information management skills to improve their organizations and to demonstrate that managing information is vital to long-term organizational success? The second is external; that is, what services can records managers provide as independent vendors, suppliers, contractors, or consultants to meet the information management needs of their customers, one of which might be their former organization?

First, let us focus on the changing profiles of organizations and some of the new roles knowledgeable records managers can bring to these [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] transformed organizations. Records managers must respond to changes that are occurring and employ techniques which will lead to an enhanced understanding of the value of information, not a diminished one. Implementing the transition to these new organizational dynamics may mean eliminating traditional "records management" and then applying the field's most effective principles and achievements to manage information in new ways, at all levels, and in every part of the organization. …